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University Library

Archival Research

Making Appointments for SSU Special Collections

To view material in the SSU Library Special Collections, please contact us regarding appointments. We welcome students, faculty members, and outside researchers and encourage you to read more below on how best to prepare for your appointment.

Before You Visit Any Special Collections or Archives

                                                      Courtesy of the Bancroft Library

Things to know before you visit any archives or special collections to do research:

  • Do your research first so you know what archives have material you want to use. For instance, the Online Archive of California lists finding aids (descriptions of the contents of archival collections) on their website. You can search your topic there, or be directed there through a Google search for your topic. Be forewarned, however, that you may have better luck with other collection indexes, like the examples listed on the Finding Physical Archives Collections page. Don't forget to use the Finding Aids tab in this Research Guide.
  • Visit the webpage of an archives or special collections library to find out what their rules are for accessing and using research materials. For example, the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley requires that you take a number of steps ahead of time in order to view materials.
  • And if the "how to" of an institution is at all unclear, call ahead to make sure you understand the rules before you show up at the archive door.

When You Arrive

Things to be aware of once you arrive for your appointment:

Archives are often available to any researcher; however, there are usually strict guidelines about exactly how collections may be accessed and used. Once you arrive, remember that:

  • Most archives will only make an appointment for a set amount of time, often no more than an hour.
  • Most archives require that you check in, and sometimes show an ID, before you can look at their materials.
  • Archives almost always have rules about bags (storage lockers or cubbies may be provided), writing implements (always pencils, no pens, and sometimes no laptops or other mobile devices), and the use of equipment such as scanners, copiers, and cameras. Be sure you ask what is allowed.
  • Some archives require that you touch fragile, unique materials only with white gloves on.
  • Archives are generally set up so that only a librarian or archivist can actually retrieve materials; you can't just browse a shelf and pull down items yourself as you can in a regular library collection. Be prepared to tell the staff what you want to see. 
  • If you are interested in several folders or boxes, there may be restrictions on how many items you can have at one time; you may need to give one box or folder back before getting the next.